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Shopping for a better online strategy?

Waitrose shopping trolleys
Shopping for a better online strategy?

According to Blackbaud’s latest Charitable Giving Report, the 7% of total fundraising that originated online in 2016 represented a record high. Although that’s a relatively small figure versus the 93% of donations that took place in a more traditional offline manner, it’s a sign that proper investment in websites and digital fundraising campaigns is only going to become more important.

Charities have made progress adapting to digital technologies; they understand their websites are important tools for engaging with supporters and there’s been a significant increase in online fundraising in recent years, with the establishment of sites such as JustGiving and GoFundMe. But on the whole the sector has been slower to heed the lessons that other sectors have already learned.

One sector that has reaped the returns of effectively adopting digital is retail. In 2016, online retail sales in the UK hit £133bn year-on-year. And mobile commerce is proving to be an even bigger growth area, with sales made via smartphones increasing 47% year-on-year in December 2016.

While retailers and charities don’t have the exact same end goals, both seek to drive positive brand engagements and online actions. Let’s take a look at five techniques charities that want to unlock the potential of digital can borrow from retailers.

1. Keep it hassle-free

It’s hard to imagine a time before the internet; it has permeated modern life. We now expect all organisations to have a well-designed website that’s straightforward to navigate and quick to load.

Retailers know how crucial it is to build an online customer journey without any stumbling blocks – it really can be the difference between a sale and a lost customer. Research from McKinsey suggests that, in retail, making this experience as seamless as possible can increase overall customer satisfaction by 20% and lift revenue by up to 15% – not to mention cutting the cost of serving customers by as much as 20%. Retailers are constantly experimenting with ways to make it easier for consumers to purchase; a good example of this is the connected ‘buttons’ such as Amazon’s Dash service. All it takes is one hit of the button and your pre-selected quantity is automatically ordered, paid for and sent to the customer.

Charities need to ensure their websites meet visitors’ expectations, are free from clutter and that it is easy for people to find what they’re looking for. For those offering the facility to make a donation online, they need to ensure the entire process is simple, done and dusted in a matter of a few clicks.

Donating to a good cause should never feel like a chore. In March, it was announced that Apple Pay donations have now been enabled for 22 of the UK’s largest charities, this will make it easier for people to donate online when using an Apple device.

2. Getting the most from the data

The “single customer view” – is a complete and holistic representation of a customer, where all available data is sorted and consolidated into a usable view. By having a single point of reference, marketers can effectively manage their data and quickly build better-targeted campaigns.

From a customer’s perspective this means more relevant communications, where and when they want them. Charities should also organise their data into a “single donor view”, where all available data about a supporter is consolidated into a usable view. This would mean that across all applications, databases and touch points, a charity has a single accurate, consistent and complete view of their donors. Critically it will enable to them develop better relationships with their supporters and get the most from the data they have.

3. Don’t ignore mobile

According to the Charitable Giving Report, 17% of last year’s online transactions were made using a mobile device. This was a 21% year-on-year increase and emphasises the need for charities’ websites to run just as smoothly on mobile as on desktop.

Retailers have firmly grasped the importance of mobile ecommerce. A good example of this is ASOS, they have made their site easy to browse on a mobile and they have enabled social sign in. 66% of AOSO traffic now comes from mobile devices and 51% of orders are now being placed on their mobile platforms. According to Deloitte, 81% of the British population (that’s 37 million people) own or have access to a smart phone – so every business, and every charity, needs to ensure it has a robust mobile strategy in place.

4. Encourage registration

Attention spans are shorter than ever. One study famously claimed a couple of years ago that we smartphone-wielding humans now lose interest after just nine seconds – an even shorter span of attention than the poor goldfish we once mocked. The challenge for every company has become how to capture that tiny window of attention and this is true for charities, too.

In retail, basket abandonment – where a customer leaves without making an online purchase, despite putting items in their virtual basket – is rife. One way the sector has effectively combated this is by sending out emails to would-be customers, reminding them of the items they oh-so- nearly bought.

Charities can encourage website visitors to sign up to newsletters or email alerts about new campaigns and ongoing work. Registering should be hassle free, for example by having the data capture on the page, rather than making people navigate away. The likelihood of repeat donations increases by ensuring the charity stays front of mind, without resorting bombarding inboxes or becoming an annoyance.

5. Be personal

People pick and support a charity they feel a connection with; it is a decision based on each individual’s personal experiences and preferences. In the fiercely competitive online retail arena, personalisation has become increasingly important and the winners are creating customer experiences unique to each customer. By analysing customer data, retailers can show certain products and suggest tailored discounts that they know will interest specific shoppers. Shop Direct in particular has excelled in using personalisation to drive sales. It has done this by personalising the entire customer journey — from the email marketing sent to bring shoppers onto the site, to the online experience itself, as well as follow-up communications. 

Charities trying to engage supporters can offer similarly personalised experiences thanks to website analytics and location data. The Teenage Cancer Trust, for example, shows visitors the work it’s doing in their local area – making its communications more relevant and donations more likely.

The total percentage of fundraising that happens online is only going to increase in the coming years, and there’s clearly a lot that charities can learn from the world of online retail and ecommerce. Taking these five lessons and putting them into action is a good place for any charity to start.

 

Ian Stockley

Ian Stockley

Ian Stockley is Chief Executive Officer, Indicia

Howard Lake is a digital fundraising entrepreneur. Publisher of UK Fundraising, the world's first web resource for professional fundraisers, since 1994. Trainer and consultant in digital fundraising. Founder of Fundraising Camp.

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